Friday, May 10, 1996
Lots of Inquiries.
Since putting up a WebSite on the 26th of January, 1996, I've had considerable success from the effort. Seems people (over 6,599 as of 5/6/96) from all over the world have found this WebSite and once here, have some fun and learn useful information about gardening, trees, mulch and dozens of other topics. A university webmaster (he's a PhD and Chairman of the School of Horticulture) of one of the horticultural insitiutions that I've featured on my Search Page said, "John, your ads read like fact sheets; I'm stunned to find so much information all in one place. Nothing like it exists anywhere else. Your WebSite is now required reading for my classes." Cool and thanks, Mike.
I just learned last week that the same webmaster used my WebSite as the main focus of a two-day horticultural seminar in Texas, in which several national trade magazine editors attended. After the conference, the editors called me for interviews, and the articles will be out in August in "Garden Center Management" Magazine, "Nursery Pro" Magazine and "Garden Center Pro" Magazine. After their release, I'll have them on-line for all to read. Very cool. I'm very humbled by the attention.
The horticulture industy is extremely backward; by this I mean the techniques and methods that most of us view as commonplace, (been there, done that) and standard operating proceedures that we take for granted in our daily business lives, are actually foreign to 97% of all garden centers and nurseries in the USA. I can't speak for anyother country, but we're way behind here. It's almost embarassing to see things on this primitive of a level in a business sector that so dominates everyone's thoughts from spring to fall. Most places have some sort of a cash register, some still use cigar boxes as cash drawers, a few have computers and even less are at the point I am: Web Pages on line. Not a snowball's chance. Over the winter, I sent my foreman and crew chief to the PNA (Pennsylvania Nurseryman's assocation) Conference in Hershey, PA for three days of forums and workshops. While there, Alan and Marc heard all about the "recession" everyone suffered last year; it was sure news to us! It was our best year ever, but many at the Conference had real problems. Additionally, the level of business sophistication was quite noticeably low amongst attendees, they said. No one knew much about computers, let alone the InterNet, the Web or POS (Point Of Sale) software systems that could help grow their business. We're fully computerized now. Oh sure, each system's software has its quirks, but somehow we get through it all to fight again another day.
There's no use in trying to change an industry that's not ready to change, especially from my position. I'm an outspoken advocate of internal change, but that alone won't make it so. A really savvy computer company could make a big impact here with hardware, software and training if they desired. The whole place is wide open for the taking. They could own the industy outright. What's around now is arcane and outdated, or adapted from another industry and just doesn't quite do the job.
In the 70s, Apple Computer gave thousands of schools their fledgling computers to get kids hooked on the 'Apple way' of doing things. And it worked. Many are still addicted to Apples and Macs today. I can't figure out why, but they are. They grew up with the slow, clumbsy machines and still cling to them out of a fear of change.
In the horticulture industry, there are a lot of shitpy little marketing (I use the term loosely here) shops and dinky ad (again, I really use the term loosely) agencies that produce junky circulars and ad slicks for everyone and anyone to use. Just fill-in the blanks with your prices and customize it. Absolute shit. Not a creative group in the entire industry. That's why I designed my own software on the Windows platform in MS Excel, Word and Works. Nothing suitable to my standards existed. The advertising creation and implementation would always be in my arena anyway; not a chance I'd let someone else write my stuff. Check out the advertising we do, it'll amaze you with its non-conventional methodology. The Positioning is clear and precise, the Marketing Warfare tactics and strategy are defined and resilient to the point of being obvious, yet no one can counter them with anything they have at their disposal. The bottom line is that it works everytime; thousands of people read, remember and collect our ads. Way cool and thanks!
Time To Upgrade.
After talking to the Pennsylvania Landscape & Nurseryman's association (PLNA) in Harrisburg, I was disappointed to find that they really don't care much about the quality of advertising within the industry here. They're more concerned about making generic ad slicks that anyone can use just by filling-in the blanks; you know, the same shitpy stuff that all those junk shops turn out and exhibit at the Trade Shows. This is trash that should be banned from the business world in its entirety. I don't expect too much from them yet, since it's a whole new group of people in there; the old crew was dismissed en masse' over a year ago when I was on the Communications Committee and all new faces were brought in. New but inexperienced in the ways of the industry. I was referred to someone at Penn State for further assistance.
So I called Penn State University and asked for the person who is responsible for the Nursery Conference in Hershey every year. He's away for a week or so and I left a message and an email for him to return the call. I want to host a workshop or seminar on Web Marketing, Positioning and Marketing Warfare for the attendees of the PLNA Conference in Hershey. More on this as it develops.
It's A Whole New World.
If the Nursery Industry doesn't get with some sort of coherent program soon, most operators of the little garden centers will be gone; Chapter 13 victims of the larger and better-marketed operations. Cigar boxes and cash registers will be relegated to museums, and the little garden center will die out. Of course, the filthy roadside, sub-human junk merchants will survive for a while, but they too will ultimately be gone. Why? Because they can't keep treading water forever. Something has to give, and it will be the small owners that cave-in. I can't say that I'll be sorry to see them go, but it's another indication of the instability, rigidity and complete inflexibility of a multi-billion dollar industry going hi-tech and large operation-oriented for the 21st century.
Wake up and smell the coffee! Make the change now and avoid court and legal costs of bankruptcy; it's a big waste of time. Don't let the conglomerates force you into selling and giving-up your way of life; fight back and upgrade NOW before it's way too late!
One of my readers wrote this about an experience with a visit from Murphy :
"One night, while I was working on some spreadsheets for my job, the monitor started acting funny. It began blinking on and off rapidly and then went to a black screen. I turned off the power switch, and when I restarted the monitor, the old TV show, Gilligan's Island, was on the screen. Our 27" Sony was in for repairs and my 9-year old son had hooked up the VCR to the monitor! The spreadsheets were gone and TV re-runs were playing. It took quite some time to straighten out the connections so the computer worked properly after that. The TV is back now and my son has been instructed not to fool around with the computer."
I've never had that kind of an experience with a computer (aka TV), but I have seen some strange stuff coming from that box sometimes. Heh, heh, heh...
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